How Did This Happen?
I should never have asked the question: What could be worse than having Kirsten Gillibrand, an unprincipled hack whose one political talent seems to be the ability to raise massive sums money, representing New York as a Democratic Senator? The answer: Harold Ford Jr.! The one-time golden boy of Tennessee politics and Democratic Leadership Council honcho evidently lives here now, and wants to run against Gillibrand for the Senate. His Wall Street friends--Ford is a Vice Chairman at Merrill Lynch, who seems to have avoided interactions with non-rich folks (other than the odd cabdriver, perhaps)for however long he's been here--think it's a swell idea, for reasons that seem pretty obvious: Ford is "a capitalist," except when the big guys fuck up. Then, evidently, his compassion overflows and he transforms into a socialist.
After an in-parts embarrassing interview with the New York Times, deservedly savaged by Gawker.com here, the Ford boomlet might be about to go bust. I hope so. Reading the full Times interview, I'm reminded of my impression of Ford when he ran for Senate in Tennessee four years ago: why the hell is this guy even a Democrat? Back then--his current elisions to the contrary--he actually tried to run to the right of Republican Bob Corker on "God, guns and gays." He's shamelessly flipped on all those--even more so than Gillibrand, who had her own set of conversions after being appointed to fill Hillary Clinton's seat--but if anything he's moved to the right on economic issues. He doesn't explain (and Times reporter Michael Barbaro doesn't push him to explain) why a relentless barrage of tax cuts from 2001-2006 didn't help produce long-term growth or other positive economic outcomes, but would do so now. There isn't a word about poverty, not a word about education, not much about finance reform--certainly no admission that the deregulatory policies of the last decade, which I believe he supported, did so much to create the current downturn. Again, why is he a Democrat? (The answer, of course, is that his daddy was, and Ford Jr. pretty much inherited Ford Sr.'s seat in Congress.)
Again, I'm no fan of Gillibrand. I wanted Carolyn Maloney to run against her. Or Carolyn McCarthy. Or Steve Israel. Hell, I would have supported Bill Thompson if he'd primaried her. The Tracy Flick comparison seems apt, and that she's an unelected senator appointed by an unelected (and thoroughly inept) governor is almost itself enough reason to want to see her challenged. But Ford has all of Gillibrand's flaws--the obnoxious and transparent ambition, the total absence of core beliefs, the evident faith that politics is about money--and a few of his own, notably the carpetbagging and the crony capitalist inclinations. If that's the choice, it's an easy call for me... but more than anything, it's infuriating that in a state with as many good progressives in public life as New York, our options seem to be limited to these two clowns.